ichael Frayn’s Noises Off might seem like a lot of easy laughs. The funny backstage farce has slamming doors, amusing misunderstandings and exaggerated characters. Its clever three-act structure takes you from a final rehearsal of a silly farce to frenzied backstage during a performance and then onstage for a final outing when things are way out of control. The madhouse of craziness keeps getting more delirious from one scene to the next, and the Covedale Center’s production does a good job of squeezing out every laugh.
But it’s definitely not easy. Things are supposed to go wrong, of course, so as a result the muddle is much of the humor. However, if the show isn’t staged with tight timing, it will become an impossible muddle, hilarious but unintelligible. Covedale’s production occasionally falls victim to that, but for the most part, it delivers an evening of clever moments.
This production faced a real-life challenge when an actor had to be replaced less than a week before opening. Brandon Wentz (as dense actor Freddie) stepped into this fiendishly tricky show and kept up with the tomfoolery.
Noises Off’s humor quotient is sustained with a daffy performance by Eileen Earnest as a dimwitted but beautiful actress — in her lingerie for most of the evening — who keeps losing a contact lens. Also buoying up the laughter is Rodger Pille (an occasional CityBeat contributor), who’s playing a puffed-up actor who has a hard time expressing his concerns.
Director Bob Brunner might have kept matters a little more focused, especially in the matter of British and American accents. Because of the script’s duality, the actors have some liberty at playing both sides of the Atlantic, but little was served by the constant back-and-forth.
If you’ve ever wondered what might on backstage at a play, this show offers a priceless comic portrait.
NOISES OFF, presented by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center, continues through Sept. 25.